From the early 1920s the work of Max Beckmann (1884–1950) was characterized by motifs dealing with performers: vaudeville and fun fair acts, acrobats, clowns, and actors. Beckmann viewed this thematic area as an expression of the metaphorical concept of the world as a stage, thereby positioning his work in line with the Baroque tradition that viewed world events as a play directed by a higher power. Max Beckmann: The World as a Stage is the first exhibition to focus on this central theme in the work of the painter.
Max Beckmann is one of the exceptional painters of Modern Art. In the 1920s he was associated with New Objectivity. Later, he was classified as an Expressionist, a movement that received early international notice, through his use of black contours and glowing colors. Many of his famous triptychs are held in museums in the USA. Among others this includes the Actors triptych from the Fogg Museum at Harvard University, which is a centerpiece of the new exhibition at the Museum Barberini. Max Beckmann’s paintings, sculptures, and prints frequently depict scenes that occur on stage or behind the scenes. These include vaudeville and circus acts, actors in their dressing rooms, or showmen at fun fairs. In addition, Beckmann created self-portraits showing himself in the guise of a clown or performer.
In addition to Beckmann’s motifs, his composition and painting techniques are evidence of his pageantry. In the 1920s, he began to construct his images like proscenium arch theaters. Figures and objects protruded out toward the viewer against a flat plane. The more brilliant the colors and the freer the painting style, the more planar and modern the images. He highlighted the physical in his expressive paintings. Through the sculptural, modelled forms, the motifs speak directly to the viewer’s senses. Beckmann developed his own way of addressing his audience through the use of various gestures and provocative themes. They challenge the viewer, retaining their relevance to the present day.
The exhibition brings together 112 loans from museums and private collections in Germany and abroad including the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, the Tate, London, and the Saint Louis Art Museum. Among the works on display are also two large triptychs from American collections which have rarely been shown in Europe. The exhibition is held in cooperation with the Kunsthalle Bremen, which has one of the largest Beckmann collections in Germany.
Max Beckmann. The World as a Stage
February 24, 2018 to June 10, 2018
Museum Barberini, Alter Markt, Humboldtstraße 5–6, 14467 Potsdam, Germany
Mon & Wed–Sun: 10 a.m.–7 p.m., first Thu of every month: 10 a.m.–9 p.m., closed Tue
Mon–Fri (except Tue) for kindergartens and schools with reservations: 9–11 a.m.
Admission: € 14 / reduced: € 10 / children and teens under 18: free